Anti-mining protests turn deadly in Panamaon Tuesday when a man allegedly shot and killed two demonstrators, escalating tensions surrounding the controversial mining contract granted to Minera Panama, a local subsidiary of a Canadian mining company.
A chilling video shared on X, formerly known as Twitter, captured the horrifying incident as an elderly man, seemingly frustrated with a roadblock hindering the Pan-American highway, pulled out a pistol and opened fire.
The incident occurred approximately 50 miles south of the capital, Panama City. The National Police later confirmed the arrest of the suspected gunman at the scene.
The violent incident marks a significant flashpoint in some of the largest protests witnessed in Panama since the 1980s.
Tens of thousands of protestors, including environmentalists, indigenous groups, teachers, and construction unions, have vehemently opposed a mining contract awarded to Minera Panama, a subsidiary of Canada's First Quantum Minerals.
One of the shot protesters died at the scene while the second was pronounced dead at a local hospital.
The contentious contract allows the Canadian mining company to restart an open-pit copper mine surrounded by rainforest for the next 20 years, with a possibility of extension.
Environmentalists argue that the mine poses a threat to drinking water and could devastate significant portions of the negotiated land, covering 32,000 acres, in exchange for annual payments of $375 million.
The recent shooting marks the first fatalities in weeks of protests that commenced on October 20. Two teachers lost their lives during a demonstration against the government's contract with First Quantum and Minera Panama.
The incident has fueled widespread condemnation and brought together diverse groups opposing the alleged backroom dealings between the government and the mining company.
Protestors accuse the government of selling off natural resources at a time when citizens face rising inflation and the impacts of climate change.
Opposition to the mining contract has united environmentalists, indigenous groups, and various unions, portraying allegations of corruption within the government.
Weeks of roadblocks set up by protesters have paralyzed the country, causing daily losses of $80 million to local businesses, according to Panama’s Association of Company Executives.
President Laurentino Cortizo has defended the mining deal, emphasizing its potential to bring jobs and revenue to the nation.
As the protests continue, Panama's government has offered concessions, including a moratorium on future metal mining contracts and a proposed nationwide referendum in December on the controversial mining project.
However, these measures have done little to alleviate the crisis, as protestors demand reevaluating the entire mining contract.
Opponents of the mining contract express hope that the Panama Supreme Court's examination of its legality may lead to the cancellation of the deal, echoing a similar ruling in 2017.
Despite the ongoing crisis, President Cortizo remains steadfast in his support for the mining agreement.
In a shocking twist, an elderly American, identified as Kenneth Darlington, 77, was arrested in connection with the fatal shooting. Darlington, a lawyer and professor with dual citizenship in the US and Panama, allegedly walked up to environmental protesters blocking the highway and fatally shot two of them.
The violence, coupled with weeks of protests, has inflicted considerable damage on Panama's reputation as a stable political and economic bastion in the region.
The nation grapples with internal strife, economic losses, and growing concerns about the long-term consequences of the controversial mining contract.
Panama is facing a critical crisis following a deadly shooting amid anti-mining protests. Tensions have escalated over a controversial mining contract, with diverse groups opposing government corruption.
The government's concessions and promises of economic benefits have not stopped the crisis. The international arrest of an elderly American adds complexity to the situation.
Legal challenges and the Supreme Court's examination of the contract's legality are looming, causing internal strife and a tarnished reputation in the region. The fate of the mining deal is in the balance.